Strength of Schedule
If you've been paying close attention to the NCAA basketball selection and seeding process, it's abundantly clear that strength of schedule matters. By some rankings, Southern Methodist might have been worthy of an 8-seed in the NCAA tournament. But because their schedule (particularly the non-conference portion) was so weak, they were left out of the field entirely. Given that the football playoff is going to use a similar committee approach to select four teams this year, you should expect strength of schedule for college teams to be similarly important.
If you use the fairly simple strength of schedule method used by the NCAA for football, Nebraska has a top 25 schedule in 2014 based on last year's finish. In the Big Ten, only newcomer Rutgers (#9) and doormats Illinois (#21) and Indiana (#24) are tougher.
In terms of teams with a hope to contend for a playoff spot, South Carolina is #13 and Auburn is #16. But programs like Florida State (#47), Alabama (#95), Oregon (#49), Oklahoma (#93), Ohio State (#35), UCLA (#60), Michigan State (#55), and Baylor (#67), who should all be getting some preseason hype, are much lower.
You'd suspect that the strength of schedule used in December will be different and based on the win-loss records for 2014 versus 2013. Still, it will be interesting to see how ties are broken to determine who gets the last couple of playoff spots. If Alabama or Oklahoma stumble, will their schedule be considered too weak? Could South Carolina sneak in with a pair of losses?
Unlike Southern Methodist, one of the teams left out of the football playoff on the basis of their schedule could have a legitimate claim to being the best team in the country. Keep in mind the precedent used by the NCAA for basketball. For once, the Huskers can be glad they have a tough schedule. It should be good enough to allow them to control their own destiny and perhaps even survive a bad outing, which is all you can ask for going into a season.